Khabib Nurmagomedov wants more than UFC 229 win; he wants Conor McGregor to pay
“Not just win – smash,” Nurmagomedov said during a Monday appearance on “Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show.” “Smash. Smash everything. Submit, beat – heart, mind, everywhere.”
“Smash” was just one of the words Nurmagomedov (26-0 MMA, 10-0 UFC) used to describe his intentions toward McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) in the pay-per-view headliner Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The plan – or is it a vow? – is also to “maul” McGregor, as well as “make this guy pay” for “everything” that he said and did in the lead-up to UFC 229.
So, yeah, it’s safe to say it’s more than just a title fight at this point for Nurmagomedov. He said it, himself. But is there a chance that this makes for some added – and possibly unwelcome – emotion in the octagon?
“Five days, we have to wait,” Nurmagomedov said. “And after, we will see who is the real champ. Who is the real king and who is the real Burger King.”
Whatever the effects McGregor’s usual mental warfare might’ve had on Nurmagomedov, one thing is for sure: The UFC’s former two-division champ is bringing the heavy artillery ahead of this one, and he didn’t limit it to in-cage affairs, either.
At last month’s press conference in New York, for instance, McGregor deployed personal and politically charged attacks, from remarks about Nurmagomedov’s manager to comments on the relationship between Chechens and Dagestanis. That’s not to mention the times he’d brought Nurmagomedov’s father into the conversation.
When it comes to McGregor’s attempts to “go inside my head,” though, Nurmagomedov says they didn’t do much damage.
“I’m not politic, you know,” Nurmagomedov said. “I’m professional athlete. If he have problem with my manager (Ali Abdelaziz), he can talk with him. He tried to catch me with something like this; he’ll never catch me. He can fight with my manager, my manager 100 percent going to choke him – he’s a black belt from Renzo Gracie.
“If he have a problem my manager, talk with him. I don’t have a problem with his manager, or with his father, or with someone. I have problem with him. I’m going to fight with him. Talk with me.”
When it comes to that, things seem well on track. Nurmagomedov says he feels good, happy and in shape. And, with four days to go before he has to weigh in at 155 pounds to confirm the title match, the champ said he was at 166, “no problem.”
The lightweight bout will be Nurmagomedov’s first time defending the belt he conquered with a unanimous-decision win over replacement opponent Al Iaquinta in April at UFC 223.
For McGregor, it will mean a long-awaited return to MMA after an almost two-year layoff. McGregor hasn’t competed in the octagon since November 2016, when he beat then-lightweight-champ Eddie Alvarez to earn a UFC belt in a second division.
McGregor’s inactivity would eventually lead him to be stripped of the title that Nurmagomedov now holds. Still, as the two fighters were about to square off after the press conference, UFC President Dana White could be heard asking someone to bring over McGregor’s belts.
Asked about his feelings on that, Nurmagomedov didn’t hold back.
“Dana needs (to stop kissing his) ass,” Nurmamedov said. “This is what Dana needs. And that’s it. Because how Dana can say, ‘Hey, where is Conor belts?’ He don’t know what happened the last two years? Max Holloway, how many times Max Holloway defend his title?
“He forget two years, if you don’t fight, UFC going to take your belt. And the UFC lightweight division had to move. Dana forget this? Hey, UFC has finally lightweight champion. Now we talk about Conor belt – he loses it. He lose his belt. He lose his mind, not only belt.”
Asked whether he believed the UFC wanted McGregor to come out victorious in their encounter, Nurmagomedov was candid.
“Of course,” Nurmagomedov said. “Of course they want (him to) win. I feel like, with me, UFC happy, too, because I have big name, too. But right now, I don’t talk about all people in the UFC. Some people want (him) to win. Of course. Because he have big name. They can make a lot of money with him. Why they need someone come to mount him and smash his face, crush his hype? They don’t need this.”
Nurmagomedov, however, says he’s “OK” and “not nervous” about this. The most important thing, for him, is what happens when the cage door closes on Saturday.
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